Last month, we revealed that writer Lee Child would soon begin co-writing his Jack Reacher series with younger brother Andrew Grant, under the Andrew Child pseudonym. Name three other siblings who write mysteries together under a joint pseudonym or their own two names.
Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org
(subject line: quiz). A prizewinner (a $25 gift card) will be randomly drawn from correct submissions.
Congratulations to Linda DeFelice of Kennebunk who submitted the titles of three Valentine-theme mysteries, and their authors. Lots from which to choose, but Linda listed Death of a Valentine, M.C. Beaton; Plum Lovin', Janet Evanovich; and A
Judgment in Stone, Ruth Rendell.
Each month we note birthdays of some of the masters of the mystery genre, with hopes that readers might read (or re-read) one of their gems.
Mickey Spillane, creator of the PI Mike Hammer series, was born March 9, 1918, in Brooklyn. Designated a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1996, he died in 2006.
, who also
wrote under the names of Dell Shannon
and Lesley Egan
, among others, was born March 11, 1921, in Aurora, Illinois. Several times an Edgar finalist, she died in 1988.______________________
Mysterious Grab Bags
Our customers love a mystery, even more when combined with a bargain.
Last year, they purchased more than 200 of our colorful mystery grab bags. Each $5 sealed bag contains three books, tied to a single clue (Murder Is Academic, Meow for Murder, These Gumshoes Wear High Heels.)
"I pick one or two every time I'm there," writes one customer. Another, with an affinity for food-related cozies, often purchases every Culinary Crimes bag we have, including those in the back room, when she visits, once leaving with eight.
Book Buying Policy
We're often contacted by people selling books--whether individual titles or complete collections.
Be aware that we buy books on a limited basis, according to our need for individual titles. Books on our shelves reflect only part of our stock.
We no longer buy hardback editions.
In order to be considered for purchase, trade paper and mass market paper editions must be in very good-excellent physical condition and must pass the "smell test" (no mildew or smoke).
We continue to accept donated books--as long as they meet our criteria for condition. We do, however, stipulate that such books may be passed along to a library or other non-profit organizations.
If you find yourself with quantities of unwanted books, we suggest you contact your local library. Library sales are great.
What better way to carry your books (or anything else) and at the same time demonstrate your love of mysteries than with our signature black bag?
Made of durable fabric with reinforced 20-inch handles, the bag sports our recognizable logo. ($7)
Remember, if you've taken your Mainely Murders bag on a trip, let us know. Send your photo (jpg) and details to email@example.com.
Thank you for supporting
Mainely Murders and other small independent booksellers. At a time when you have other choices, you've shown a commitment to those of us who are part of the local community and who consider customers to be friends and neighbors.
We take great pride in talking with our clientele, whether it's trading viewpoints on favorites or recommending new titles and authors.
March is the month spring arrives, a fact that always makes us chuckle. Even here in Paris, where signs of spring arrive sooner than in Maine, it seems a way off. But there are blooming bushes and jonquils galore.
March may not be our favorite month--hence our absence--but some great new books are appearing over the next few weeks. Jussi Adler-Olsen's
Victim 2117, the 8th in his Department Q series, will be out, as will The Safety Net, the late Andrea Camilleri's 25th Inspector Montalbano title, and Donna Leon's 28th Guido Brunetti book, Trace Elements; Maine's David Rosenfelt will debut a new K-Team series.
As we've mentioned, much of our reading here is courtesy of the American Library in Paris. Newspapers, magazines, books, and an automatic espresso/cappuccino machine. What could be better?
When we first began traveling here, there were a number of English language bookstores, including the venerable Shakespeare and Company. Today, other than that reincarnation of Sylvia Beach's famous enclave, now mostly new books, and two retailers of English language new books on fashionable rue Rivoli, only a few other English-language bookshops remain. We always find treasures at San Francisco Books on rue Monsieur le Prince.
Still, we've managed to do a lot of reading. In truth, the lion's share of our reading is done outside of bookstore "season." See below for Our Recent Favorites. Here it's not difficult to read six or seven books a week, though it's best to have a few short books to bump up the numbers.
Paula & Ann
Partners in Crime
New This Month
Remembering Mary Higgins Clark
Mary Higgins Clark, whose decades of bestsellers earned her the accolade "Queen of Suspense" and the title of Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, died January 30. She was 92.
International bestsellers, Clark's books, beginning with her first suspense title, Where Are the Children (1975) now in its 75th edition, sold more than 100 million in the U.S. alone. Her most recent title, I've Got My Eyes on You, was published in 2018.
One of her secrets to success, besides hard work and talent, according to Michael Korda, her long-time editor, was that "Nobody ever bonded more completely with her readers than Mary did." She went on tour for every one of her books until very recently.
In 2014, Clark began a writing partnership with another bestselling author, Alafair Burke, which resulted in five titles, the most recent, You Don't Own Me in 2018. She also wrote several Christmas titles with her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark. A former daughter-in-law, Mary Jane Clark, is also a mystery writer.
... and Clive Cussler
Clive Cussler, the prolific writer whose successes included 25 books in his popular Dirk Pitt series, died February 24. He was 88.
While working in advertising and trying to write fiction, he cast about for an original approach and chose action adventure on and under the water. And so, The Mediterranean Caper, the first Dirk Pitt book (1973), was born. Since 2004, the books have been co-authored by his son, Dirk Cussler.
In total he authored or co-authored more than 50 books in five best-selling adventure series, including Dirk Pitt, NUMA Files, Oregon Files, Isaac Bell, and Fargo. His books, which sold more than 100 million copies in 40 languages around the world, appeared on The New York Times bestsellers list 17 times in a row.
Rarely does a day go by that someone doesn't ask us, "What's the best book you've read lately?" Here are a few we've really enjoyed.
"I can't believe this is only the fourth book. I feel like I've been rooting for IQ forever."--Paula
A Cold Way Home
"A tale of total despair. You read this and understand much of America today." --Paula
The Girl Who Lived Twice
"A tale of vengeance and retribution by Lisbeth Salander. But now there's nobody obvious left to kill."--Ann
Into the Fire
"The Nowhere Man takes on his last case before retirement, a simple case of protecting a man from Armenian killers who want to stop evidence of their money laundering being revealed. Alas, nothing in his life is simple."--Ann
In the Beginning...
How often we've heard it: "I was totally hooked by the opening line."
It's happened to all of us. We think one of the all-time best openers came from the pen of Ruth Rendell in Judgement in Stone (1977). "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write."
Ann, a great fan of Richard Stark (Donald Westlake), recalls the opening line of Firebreak (2001), "When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man."
More recently, we both loved the first sentence of Denise Mina's Conviction (2019), "The day my life exploded started well."
How important to you are those first few words? Do you have a memorable opening from mystery/detective fiction? Share it at firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: opening lines).
Planning a Vacation?
Check Out the Mysteries
When it comes to vacation planning, travelers reach first for the travel guides. Many of our customers come to us.
Steeping yourself in the fiction of another country, region, or city is a great way to get a feel for it. (If you're a frequent visitor, those books can also keep you in touch while you're at home.)
Readers of Scandinavian noir, we were both familiar with Iceland before we ever set foot for the first time in Iceland. Paula says she had a mental map for Venice before we visited, thanks to the books of Donna Leon. Ann, who lived and studied in Scotland, reads authors like Craig Robertson to stay in touch.
What We're Reading
While here in Paris, it only seems right that we supplement our wanderings throughout the city with Paris-centric mysteries. After all, how better to get a feel for our home away from home.,
Georges Simenon's Maigret (Ann)
Over the years, I've read a respectable number of Simenon's classic Maigret titles. They're particularly fun to read while here for a sense of Paris because he is so specific about locations. Readers can follow him from place to place as he investigates a particular crime. And see how daily lives have changed (or not) through the years.
In Maigret Mystified
, for instance, he moves from the Place de Vosges to the Place de Pigalle to the Boulevard Haussmann as he interviews those who might know something about the murder of a wealthy man--or have a motive to kill him. In the process he talks to people across Parisian society (even then Parisians differentiated themselves from the rest of France).
In this relatively early Maigret, his 12th, first published in 1932, the Place de Vosges where the crime was committed was much more mixed than today. It had fallen considerably from the days when it was built as a planned square for aristocrats who wished to live near the French king. The large apartments with views of the square were still occupied by the wealthy, but many others were occupied by offices like that of the murdered man or by the lower middle class.
Of course, he gets his man (or woman). And because Simenon wrote short books by today's standards, readers get a quick tour of Paris.
Michael Bond's Pamplemousse (Paula)
For all the world, Britain's Michael Bond is the creator of one of the most famous characters in children's fiction--Paddington Bear. What child--and most adults--doesn't know the charming bear with the old hat, oversized coat, battered suitcase, and his love of marmalade?
But for this mystery reader, Bond's most endearing character is Aristide Pamplemousse, the corpulent police inspector-turned-gastronomic investigator for Le Guide, the preeminent French culinary guidebook, and his bloodhound sidekick, Pommes Frites.
Starting with Monsieur Pamplemousse (1985), the series takes the reader on a delightful romp throughout Paris and on through the French countryside in this satirical send-up of the convoluted and sometimes dangerous tradition of restaurant ranking. (One coveted "Stock Pot" or two?).
French farce laden with a heavy helping of British humor, Pamplemousse isn't to everyone's liking--particularly restaurant owners and, often, even his boss Monsieur le Directeur at Le Guide. But, the beguiling undercover agent--aren't all restaurant reviewers "undercover"?--treads (and sometimes stumbles) his way into restaurants and kitchens, much to the delight of readers.
Over the years, I've read every one of Bond's 18 titles, some more than once, always with laughter and a feeling that I've met the gastronomical detectives extraordinaire.
Indeed, here in Paris now, I can't pass Les Deux Magots, the famous café in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area, just a few blocks from our apartment, without thinking of Pamplemousse. I can almost see him there in his undercover guise--a woman's dress several sizes too small, the requisite Hermes scarf covering his lower face, not loosely knotted at the neck.
Traveling Book Bag
When Jeanette DeBlois of Sanford packed for her winter vacation in Hawaii, she thought she'd need books for beach reading. After a mishap in Maui, she knew she'd been right.
A Love Affair with the Classics
We're big fans of the classics, but, clearly, we're not
alone. Leslie Blatt of Springfield, New Jersey, is another. His blog (www.classicmysteries.net) is a true labor of love. Whether you're a longtime fan of the novels of a bygone era or just discovering them, it's an excellent reference point.
I fell in love with classic mysteries at the age of 10. As a gift for my tenth birthday, a family friend gave me a copy of the complete Sherlock Holmes--4 novels and 56 short stories. It didn't take me very long to read it and fall in love with the Holmes stories.
What else was out there? As an avid reader, my horizons broadened rapidly--first to Agatha Christie, then on to John Dickson Carr, Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, and so many more. Every time I found a new author to enjoy, I'd scour my local and school libraries, hoping to read all I could find by that new-to-me writer.
During most of my working life, however, I had little spare time to enjoy these books, although I did begin to accumulate them. By the time I retired, around 2007, a lot of the mystery reading and writing world had moved away from the traditional mysteries and authors I so enjoyed. Almost every time I'd discover an author whose work excited me, I'd find that their books were out of print. My own tastes definitely were for traditional, plot-and-puzzle oriented stories, often leavened with humor and wit. Thrillers, not so much. Hard-boiled, not at all.
Retirement having left me with a need to fill my time usefully (we can argue about that word "usefully"), and having already launched a personal blog, it occurred to me that perhaps a reading blog, one giving my reviews of mysteries I liked and wanted to share with others, might provide an enjoyable way to spend some of my time. I decided to start with a podcast because much of my professional career was spent in broadcast news.
The Classic Mysteries podcast began in May 2007, with a review of Dorothy L. Sayers's The Nine Tailors. A year later, I added the Classic Mysteries blog as another way to provide reviews of books I believe worth reading and re-reading. I promised one new review every week. So far, I have recorded and published more than 650 reviews. I also try to bring back one of my older reviews each week as a "From the Vault" item for the benefit of newcomers who may have missed a review. You can find me online at https://www.classicmysteries.net.
I have been surprised and delighted at the number of publishers who have been re-discovering and re-publishing Golden Age classics in the last few years. My tastes have broadened as I've been introduced to these newly revived authors, and I really enjoy writing/talking about them on blog posts or podcasts.
In the nearly 13 years since I began Classic Mysteries, I have followed a few basic rules:
- I only write reviews of books I enjoy. Others may write negative reviews; I would rather point my readers to books I enjoy and believe they will enjoy.
- I only write reviews of books that are either still in print or back in print. This includes e-book editions. For a few books, I bend the rules to include books that are out of print but seem to have a reasonable number of copies available through used bookstores or online dealers like Amazon affiliates.
- On that note, an important point: PLEASE, if you are looking for a book that is in print or available on the used book market, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE buy it from your favorite (or nearest) book dealer. We have lost too many brick-and-mortar bookstores. Book dealers like Ann and Paula deserve your support.
- In that regard and as full disclosure, I am a member of Amazon's affiliate program. If you use any of my links to Amazon and buy anything through those links, I get a (remarkably small) percentage of that payment. The money goes towards the hosting fees for the podcast and website, but it is a small number, and I'd rather see you support your local bookstore. For anything else you might buy from Amazon and use one of my Amazon links to find or order, I get the credit.
I haven't made it to Maine yet--I'm a New Jersey boy--but Ann and Paula and the other "real" mystery bookstores like Mainely Murders make it possible for me to enjoy our favorites. They deserve our thanks.
Jussi Adler-Olsen, Victim 2117 [Department Q #8]
Benjamin Black, The Secret Guests [NS]
Chris Bohjalian, The Red Lotus [NS]
C.J. Box, Long Range [Joe Pickett #20]
Michel Bussi, The Double Mother [NS]
Andrea Camilleri, The Safety Net [Inspector Montalbano #25]
Laura Childs, Lavender Blue Murder [Tea Shop #21]
Harlan Coben, The Boy From the Woods [NS]
Max Allan Collins, Do No Harm [Nate Heller #17]
Clive Cussler and Graham Brown, Journey of the Pharoahs [NUMA #17]
Peggy Ebhart, A Fatal Yarn [Knit & Nibble #5]
Carol Goodman, Sea of Lost Girls [NS]
Heather Graham, The Final Deception [NY Confidential #5]
Steven F. Havill, Less Than a Moment [Posadas County #24]
Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, You Are Not Alone [NS]
*Lee Hollis, Death of a Blueberry Tart [Hayley Powell #12]
Linda Howard and Linda Jones, After Sundown [NS]
J.A. Jance, Credible Threat [Ali Reynolds #15]
*Eleanor Kuhns, A Circle of Dead Girls [Will Rees #8]
Michael Ledwidge, Say Nothing [NS]
Donna Leon, Trace Elements [Guido Brunette #29]
Phillip Margolin, A Reasonable Doubt [Robin Lockwood #3]
Mathew Quirk, Hour of the Assassin [NS]
Deanna Raybourn, A Murderous Relation [Veronica Speedwell #5]
Kathy Reichs, Conspiracy of Bones [Temperance Brennan #19]
James Rollins, The Last Odyssey [Sigma Force #15]
*David Rosenfelt, The K Team [K Team #1]
Olen Steinhauer, The Last Tourist [Milo Weaver #4]
Peter Swanson, Eight Perfect Murders [NS]
*Stuart Woods, Hit List [Stone Barrington #53]